Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve was designated in 1978 and named for the bay where thousands of wading birds roost and nest on certain mangrove islands. A lot of other birds also rely on this area for survival. Reserve staff and volunteers keep tabs on these bird populations as an indicator of estuarine health.
I recently had the pleasure of joining our shorebird monitoring intern Alli, volunteer captain Larry and another staff member on the monthly shorebird survey. We got an early start from the Ten Thousand Islands field station, near Goodland, so that we could take advantage of the tide and get back by lunch.
Yesterday morning I went out on my weekly non-breeding bird survey, accompanied by Education Intern Brooke, and volunteer Larry. While on these surveys I try to get accurate counts of all the different shorebird species using the beaches in the reserve while noting other factors like behavior and disturbance.
Last Thursday I was lucky enough to accompany one of our visiting investigators, Martha Zapata from Ohio State University, into the field to assist with her masters thesis research. Martha is studying the complexity of food webs in the East River, a tributary to Fakahatchee Bay.
The day started great - we met at the Environmental Learning Center and headed out to our Goodland field station with all our gear, food, water and coffee. It was a beautiful south Florida day, sunny and in the low 70s. The journey began with a 45-minute boat ride out to Martha’s lower study sites in the East River. Martha also has sites upriver that are only accessible by kayak from US 41.
The 17th annual Ten Thousand Islands Christmas Bird Count (FLTT CBC) was held on Tuesday, January 3, 2017. Fifteen teams and a total of 52 people participated in the count using a variety of transportation including: 1 airboat, 4 outboard motor boats, 1 canoe, 1 kayak, 1 swamp buggy, autos, and of course on foot.
A total of 136 species and 17,681 birds were tallied within the entire FLTT count circle, much of which falls within Rookery Bay Research Reserve's managed area.
Earlier this week, I went out with Beverly and Allie in our research department to check the ABC Islands Critical Wildlife Area for nesting birds. These islands are posted and protected by a 300-foot buffer area, and our staff has a special permit issued by FWC to enter this area. Using binoculars, we saw great blue herons, pelicans, anhingas and more! While boating around the outside of the islands we saw evidence of cormorants nesting and also saw several blue heron nests. On one of the islands we could also see that there was fishing line caught in the tree canopy so we carefully removed the line. Fishing line is a threat to birds because they can become entangled and die.
Snail Trail has recently been reopened, so Misa, Renee, and I decided to take an hour of our morning to go check it out. The trail itself is normally a bit longer but since we couldn't stay away from work too long, we decided to take the short route - and so can you if you decide to go!
With Renee as our guide, Misa and I got to learn a lot about the native plants and exotic species in the area. Renee’s extensive knowledge of botany added a touch of science to our encounter with the nature in the reserve.
We had a wonderful evening in Rookery Bay Reserve and the glorious Ten Thousand Islands last week with fisheries biologist Pat O’Donnell. The evening began with a large mullet jumping into the boat onto the bow. Its bad fortune was our good luck: more shark bait, and, more sharks than we ever expected.
Misa and I, Rookery Bay Reserve's communication interns for Fall semester, joined a research trawling trip with Pat O'Donnell. Pat is the fisheries biologist and has been working at Rookery Bay for 18 years. It's safe to say he knows his fisheries pretty well! Neither of us had done anything like that before and we had no idea what to expect of it.